Jane Hammond: Natural Selection: New Botanical Collages at Lyndsey Ingram Gallery

May saw London been blooming with botanical and floral themed exhibitions in tandem with the Chelsea Flower Show, and Jane Hammond’s stunning new collection of works ‘Natural Selection: New Botanical Collages’ at Lyndsey Ingram Gallery is a shining example.

‘Natural Selection: New Botanical Collages’ is American artist Jane Hammond’s first London solo show of botanical collages. She combines printmaking with painting, photography, found objects and digital elements that when combined create one of a kind large-scale collages that explore the infinite complexity of the natural and man made worlds.

The exhibition is a stunning cocktail of grasses, seeds, insects and birds, sheet music and prints from Japan. Hammond’s works have a beautiful, vibrant rhythm to them and are full of life. Each collage contains a specific theme; the plants in ‘Elephant Vase with Basket Stinkhorn, Heartbreak Grass and Strychnine’ are all poisonous, ‘Piety Vase with Royal Flycatcher, Angelica and Sphinx Moth Caterpillar Stage’ focuses on caterpillars, ‘French Glass with Emerald Cuckoo, Malachite Sunbird and Carmine Bee-eater’ on a variety of birds, while ‘Japanese Vase with Borage, Moonwort and Monarchs’ focuses on the stages of the Monarch butterfly and its food supply.

Botany itself was considered a woman’s subject in Victorian times. Self-taught women collected butterflies, ferns, grasses, shells and seaweed and would arrange their found specimens in albums. The practice was both a scientific and sensual delight. Women would paint their finds in watercolours and make decorative arrangements from cut paper. The same natural images were also displayed on wallpapers, fabrics and printed china; the dresses women wore, the plates they ate off of and the rooms they lived in were all bejewelled with flowers. Soon flower arranging itself became a recognised form of art. These feminine touches are inherent in Hammond’s own legacy, springing from the time she spent as a child with her grandmother, a hugely ambitious gardener, who made Hammond learn the Latin names for around 100 plants when she was just six years old.  The titles of Hammond’s work are incredibly precise and detailed, however they still have a charming simplicity, keeping things perfectly clear and accessible for viewers.

Hammond’s collages appear be carefree and spontaneous, however they demand remarkable care and attention with their application. In a collage, the arrangement is everything. With a collage, you are not as committed as you are with a drawing, where the lines on the paper are final. On the otherhand, with a collage you can pick and choose, and constantly rearrange and move elements about, until finally it feels right.

In ‘Elephant Vase with Basket Stinkhorn, Heartbreak Grass and Strychnine’ all the plants featured are poisonous. In this energetic arrangement, everything can bring harm, from the aptly named deadly nightshade, opium poppies and the stinking voodoo lily, to the pretty coloured leaves of Caladium which causes swelling in the throat. Mother Nature - as beautiful as her creations are, can also be a femme fatale.

‘Natural Selection: New Botanical Collages’ displays a collection of works that creates a harmonic chorus of all the delights of Spring and Summer with Hammond playing the role of Mother Nature as she alters the plant life to suit her creation. The Rafflesia Arnoldii, otherwise known as the ‘corpse lily’ for its unpleasant odour of decaying flesh, is noted for producing the largest individual flower on Earth, some reaching up to a metre wide, and yet Hammond has placed a shrunken Rafflesia Arnoldii in a French champagne bucket. Even in its dwarfed form, the plant still looks slightly sinister sitting among the rest of the foliage, and it is details like this that alert viewers to the dedication and the intensive thought process that Hammond goes through while arranging her collages, and incorporating these witty little details.

Jane Hammond: Natural Selection: New Botanical Collages at Lyndsey Ingram Gallery is on until 15th June.  More information may be found here.

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